Taking a way-too-early look at 49ers' 53-man roster for 2023


The 49ers can go play a game.

In the big picture, that is certainly not a big deal, considering the 49ers will not even play their first exhibition game until mid-August.

But — point is — the complete framework of a depth chart now is in place.

General manager John Lynch’s task is to improve and build depth on what currently projects as the 49ers’ 53-man roster.

The last piece for the 49ers arrived on Friday evening when the club completed a trade with the Carolina Panthers for kicker Zane Gonzalez.

Gonzalez, 27, takes the roster spot that Robbie Gould occupied for the past six seasons.

Gonzalez’s spot on the regular-season roster certainly is not guaranteed. He sustained a leg injury while warming up before a late-season game in 2021 and went on injured reserve. Then, he never kicked in 2022 due to another injury sustained while warming up before the final preseason game.

With a scheduled 11 picks in the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft, the 49ers have the ability to add young players to replace veterans for starting jobs or improve the bottom half of the roster.

This is how the team’s roster looks right now:

Quarterback (3): Trey Lance, Brock Purdy, Sam Darnold

Regardless of the to-be-determined order to open the season, the 49ers are virtually guaranteed to keep three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster. These are the three.

Running back (4): Christian McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell, Jordan Mason, Ty Davis-Price

Sure, the 49ers can add a veteran on a minimum salary or an undrafted rookie, but these are clearly the four backs who are ticketed for the regular-season roster.

Fullback (1): Kyle Juszczyk

Not-so-bold prediction for the upcoming season is that Juszczyk will be selected to his eighth consecutive Pro Bowl. No backup is required here.

Wide receiver (6): Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings, Ray-Ray McCloud, Danny Gray, Tay Martin

The onus is on Gray to win a roster spot after he spent his rookie season learning the playbook and how to work as a professional. Martin appeared in two games after signing with the team as an undrafted free agent. There should be considerable competition for the last couple spots at receiver.

Tight end (3): George Kittle, Charlie Woerner, Ross Dwelley

The 49ers can be expected to keep a fourth tight end, as they have in the past. If the 49ers keep their late-third-round picks at Nos. 99, 101 and 102, it is reasonable that tight end would be one of the positions for them to target.

Offensive line (8): Trent Williams, Aaron Banks, Jake Brendel, Spencer Burford, Colton McKivitz, Jaylon Moore, Jon Feliciano, Nick Zakelj

There is some uncertainty at right tackle, where McKivitz and Moore likely will compete to replace Mike McGlinchey. The 49ers figure to increase competition via the draft. Also, the door is wide open for someone up from the practice squad, such as Jason Poe, to win a backup role.

Defensive line (10): Nick Bosa, Javon Hargrave, Arik Armstead, Clelin Ferrell, Javon Kinlaw, Drake Jackson, Kevin Givens, T.Y. McGill, Kalia Davis (NFI), Austin Bryant

The 49ers lost four significant contributors along the defensive line. They signed three veterans and also have high hopes for Davis to make an impact after spending last season working his way back from an ACL tear. The 49ers can be expected to continue to add players, including a draft pick or two, to head into camp with healthy competition.

Linebacker (5): Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, Oren Burks, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, Curtis Robinson

Burks, one of the 49ers’ core special-teams players, took over as the 49ers’ third linebacker when Azeez Al-Shaair was unavailable. This is a spot where the 49ers also figure to add a draft pick or priority free agent. And expect Marcelino McCrary-Ball to make a spirited bid for a roster spot.

Cornerback (6): Charvarius Ward, Deommodore Lenoir, Sam Womack, Isaiah Oliver, Ambry Thomas, A.J. Parker

The above six probably will not be the top six when the 49ers break camp. Parker is listed because he played 20 games (seven starts) over the past two seasons with the Detroit Lions. The 49ers can be expected to target this position in the draft. Also, keep an eye on versatile defender Qwuantrezz Knight, who spent his rookie season on the practice squad.

Safety (4): Talanoa Hufanga, Tashaun Gipson, George Odum, Myles Hartsfield

The 49ers brought back Gipson on a one-year deal while Jimmie Ward left for the Houston Texans in free agency. Hartsfield started 19 games the past two seasons for Carolina but was let go as a restricted free agent. The 49ers would be wise to find a player in the draft they can spend a year developing for a potential starting role a year from now (see Hufanga, 2021).

RELATED: 49ers announce offseason schedule for OTAs, minicamp

Specialists (3): K Zane Gonzalez, P Mitch Wishnowsky, LS Taybor Pepper

Perhaps, Gonzalez will be the team’s kicker this season. Perhaps, not. How early is too early for the 49ers to draft a kicker? Is it even worth it to draft a kicker? The 49ers have not selected one since Jeff Chandler (fourth round) in 2002.

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